In August of 2010, just two years after America’s housing bubble collapsed taking world economies with it, Boston University Professor Emeritus of international relations Angelo Codevilla (PBUH) published his essay, America’s Ruling Class – And the Perils of Revolution. It was, I think, a crucially important piece, and not just for the United States. I urge you to read, as they say, the whole thing, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m going to limit myself to a couple of excerpts.
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use.
This is fairly new in the United States, but I think relatively common in many other nations where there has always been a Ruling Class that often acts against the wishes of the majority of the population. And I want to concentrate on the universality of this Ruling Class as it exists in the Western world and beyond. Codevilla again:
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
Again, this is new to the U.S, but what has changed is that the Ruling Class elites of other nations, not limited to the West, were also formed largely in that same educational system. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and such, and not only nationally but internationally our Ruling Classes exhibit very similar attitudes and ideologies. For example:
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
This “Saviors of the Planet” attitude is hardly limited to the U.S. The divide here is more pronounced now that I can remember, and I’m approaching 62 years of age. I suspect it’s larger in other nations than ever before, as well.
I’m going to skip most of the rest of the piece, but again I seriously recommend you read it all. What I want to get to is this:
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg’s tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate — most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class’s prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans — a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents — lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled.
(Bold emphasis mine.) Remember, this was written in 2010, long before Brexit and Donald Trump. Now we have:
- Brexit vote in June, 2016
- The election of Donald Trump in November of that year
- The Trucker’s Convoy in Canada
- The rise of the Farmer’s Party and of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands
- The overthrow of the Sri Lankan government
- The election of Giorgia Meloni in Italy
- The election of Javier Milei in Argentina
- Irish anti-immigration riots
As of this writing, Donald Trump is the leading candidate for President of the U.S. come 2024. Voters in many other nations are voting “Other” such as the example of the Farmer’s Party in the Netherlands, Meloni and Milei.
It would appear that what Codevilla termed “The Country Class” worldwide has decided to start demanding representation.
Whether that turns out well or badly depends on how the Ruling Class responds.
So far, it’s not looking good.